Abu Dhabi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses as ‘Guest of Honour’ at the 46th Foreign Ministers' Meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi, Friday, March 1, 2019. (TWITTER/PTI Photo)  (PTI3_1_2019_000047B)
Abu Dhabi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses as ‘Guest of Honour’ at the 46th Foreign Ministers' Meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi, Friday, March 1, 2019. (TWITTER/PTI Photo) (PTI3_1_2019_000047B)

With the third largest Muslim population in this country globally, India being accorded the status of “guest of honour” at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi on March first is of immense significance.

A highly embarassed Pakistan being one of the founding members of the OIC and instrumental in keeping New Delhi out of the 57-member grouping was left with no option but to boycott the conclave. Islamabad’s so called eminence in the eyes of the Islamic world has suffered a grievous blow. The message to the powerful military establishment in Rawalpindi cannot be more direct that India has abiding and close ties with the Islamic countries.

As the host of the OIC, the United Arab Emirates has probably set the ball rolling for New Delhi’s entry in the grouping. In case this happens, it will be a major bow to Pakistan’s credibility globally. Pakistan’s bluff has been called. It is well know that this country has become the centre of aiding and abetting terrorism along with fanning radical extremism. It has invariably used the OIC platform to raise the Kashmir issue.

However, a major success for this country is that while Pakistan found the space to attack India, these did not find mention in the final resolution of the OIC. The resolutions targetting India were not debated or discussed as it was considered unimportant. The reality is that the OIC meeting in Abu Dhabi is bound to bolster India’s sustained political engagement with the Islamic world.

Way back in 1969, New Delhi faced the ignominy in Rabat of its invitation being withdrawn from the opening session of the OIC due to Pakistan’s intense lobbying.  And no less than half a century later Pakistan found itself in a highly embarassing situation. Major powers and the Islamic world increasingly realises that Islamabad is behind the proxy war against India by aiding and abetting terrorists.

It is no secret that the neighbour’s economy is in a shambles and cannot afford another war with its bigger neighbour.  Islamabad’s reputation in the Islamic world has taken a major hit. It is apparent the Muslim world views India differently and not through the jaundiced eyes of Pakistan. The intransigient neighbour has failed to take corrective measures in battling religious extremism.

The message is unambiguous that Pakistan must mend its ways as the Islamic world has seen through its game. This does not necessary mean that the Islamic nations are going to dump Pakistan. At the same time the military establishment in Rawalpindi is unlikely to mend its ways. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj who addressed the OIC gathering emphasised that the challenge of terrorism has to be overcome by “the strength of our values and the real message of religions” promoting peace and harmony.

India’s ties with the Gulf region has undergone a major transformation with its strategic and security partnership coupled with with an economic content has been of immense value to the nations and the region.  India’s involvement with the OIC assumes importance which has the United Nations, NAM, Russia and Thailand as observers. The outlines of New Delhi’s engagement with the OIC was outlined by the the External Affairs minister.

In a major diplomatic success for this country the Abu Dhabi declaration of the OIC did not refer to Kashmir as evidenced in the past or hint that India is an aggressor. UAE and Saudi Arabia as close allies of Pakistan are believed to have played a significant role in defusing the tension between the two neighbours particularly after the attack on a CRPF convoy in J&K and the subsequent release of an IAF pilot from Islamabad’s custody.

It is believed the influence of the OIC heavyweights Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia has added a new dimension to the India-Pakistan crises. On its part UAE invited India to be the “guest of honour” at the OIC meeting because of “its international political weight, diverse cultural heritage and an important Islamic component”. The External Affairs ministry observed it “welcomed the recognition of 185 million Muslims in India and their contribution to its pluralistic ethos coupled with its contribution to the Islamic world”.

On its part, the OIC has spoken about Kashmir as it had done in the past with a telling difference. This time around they remained mindful of India’s interests. Its presence in the OIC can facilitate broader engagement with the Muslim world from energy to counter terrorism cooperation.

In rendering assistance to Pakistan, both UAE and Saudi Arabia are fighting battles against Islamic radicalisation. Islamabad needs to take serious note of the changing environment in fighting terrorism and religious fanaticism both within and without.

T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.

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Free Press Journal